Ilex #5 Flash Synch Repair

My 8×10 Calumet View Camera is a real workhorse. It came with a 14 inch Commercial Ektar f6.4 lens mounted in an Ilex #5 shutter. It produces great images but there is (was) a problem with the shutter. My first portrait session in the studio using flash was a little embarrassing because the flash synch didn’t fire the strobes.

I purchased a special synch cord the week before to connect the bi-pin synch terminals to a modern synch cord, so I imagined that the new adapter was bad out of the box. I worked around the problem by firing the flash manually with the shutter open in T mode. When I got everything home on the work bench, the adapter tested good and the shutter didn’t. This story is about how I disassembled and repaired the shutter.

If you decide to go down this road, you will need a clear work space, access to an ohm-meter, a precision slot type screwdriver and a safe place to keep the small screws you will remove. This is definitely not a couch job.

Step One

Determine that the flash synch contacts are actually the problem. Best way to find out is with an ohm-meter.

Ohm meter connection

With the meter leads connected to the bi-pin posts, the meter set to OHMS and the M-X-OFF switch set to X, press the shutter release. The meter should blink <100Ω for an instant if the synch switch is working properly. If nothing changes on the meter you can be pretty sure the problem IS the synch switch.

Step Two

Remove the trim ring
Remove the trim ring

Set the timer adjustment to 1/50 second, then remove the trim ring. Remove four small screws that hold the trim ring on to the body of the shutter. You may hear the timer spring unwind a little as the trim ring releases the timer adjustment dog. This is not a problem. Lift the trim ring off of the shutter body. You might have to bend the synch select switch and the aperture adjustment tab a little so that they clear the trim ring.

Lift the trim ring off of the shutter body.

It’s probably a good idea to remove the front lens assembly at this time, if not sooner. I didn’t have any trouble that would have caused damage, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Just unscrew it and set it aside in a safe place.

Remove the timer adjustment ring.

Next remove the timer adjustment ring. Just lift it off and set it aside.


Step Three

Remove the shutter top cover.

Remove the lens mounting collar and shutter top cover. Remove three long screws that hold the top cover on to the shutter body.

Internal shutter mechanism


You can now see the internal mechanism of the shutter. Be careful not to touch the shutter leaves. They are very fragile.

Step Four

Clean the synch switch contacts by first locating the three parts of the synch switch; The sliding contact, the fixed contact and the moving contact.

Three parts of the synch switch

Note: When the synch selector is in the X position (the correct selection for modern strobe flash units) releasing the shutter will cause the moving contact to rotate a few degrees counter-clockwise as shown in the illustration, closing the synch switch and firing the flash.

ilex5-flash-synch-contact-repair-3Using a contact burnishing tool, clean the switch points under the moving and fixed contacts. Do not use sandpaper. If you can’t access a proper burnishing tool, it’s better to use coarse paper than something that’s very abrasive. The switch points are plated in a thin layer of silver which should be preserved. After burnishing, re-test the synch switch using the ohm-meter. If it tests good, connect the flash unit and actuate the shutter release button. If problems persist, you may need to send the shutter to a reputable repair service such as Flutot’s Camera Repair.

Step 5

Reassemble the top cover.

Reassemble the shutter. Start with the top cover assembly. Carefully align the synch selector opening on the cover with the opening for the synch selector switch on the shutter body. Ease the cover into place and secure with the three long screws you removed in step three.

Next place the timer adjustment ring on the top cover, aligning as shown in the following illustrations.

Timer stop tab

Illustration showing the timer stop tab and the notch in the timer adjustment ring.


Timer dog alignment
Timer dog alignment


Illustration showing the timer adjustment dog inside the timer adjustment ring. Place the ring a little off-center so that it catches the dog, then move it into position, holding it down so that the dog is secured. If you hear the timer unwind a little, try again.

Secure the trim ring
Secure the trim ring

While holding the timer adjustment ring firmly on the top cover, place the trim ring over the adjustment ring, and install one trim screw in the hole nearest the timer dog. Install the remaining three trim ring screws, and the front lens assembly.

Congratulations! You’re done.

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